News Corp considers launch of sports channel rival to ESPN

Denver BroncosThe New York Times is reporting that News Corporation is considering the launch of a new US sports channel to rival ESPN, which is part of the Disney-ABC Television Group owned by Walt Disney.

Plans are said to be at an early stage, but reports on Twitter have suggested the channel could be called Fox Sports 1. 

News Corp is reported to be negotiating for rights from pay-TV carriers and sports bodies, according to an initial Bloomberg report.

It stressed a final decision to move forward hasn’t yet been made, but one option under consideration is the conversion of News Corp’s existing Fuel action-sports network to the new channel, according to Bloomberg quoting people familiar with the plans.

Any new News Corp channel would have a tough fight on its hands as ESPN is well place to fend off competition with its strong line-up of Monday Night Football (NFL), Major League Baseball and NBA games.

Lou D’Ermilio, a spokesman for Fox Sports, said the company would have no comment on the report. But News Corporation executives, who asked not to be identified because no decision had been made, said the company had held extensive discussions about creating a national cable sports channel.

“Will it happen?” one senior executive said. “Maybe. But maybe not.”

The executives denied that the channel could begin as early as the end of this year. “That’s not going to happen,” the senior executive said. “There is no final timetable.”

News Corporation could try to re-brand one of the cable channels it already owns, like Fuel, which specializes in “thrill-seeking sports” like Ultimate Fighting Championship matches, into a general sports channel. But that network is only seen in only 36 million homes. A more likely candidate, the senior executive acknowledged, would be the Speed Channel, a network based on car racing that is now seen in about 80 million homes, the New York Times reports.